Step Towards Transformation
James 1:12-18 New King James Version (NKJV)
12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.
15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
Last 3 weeks we learnt about trials and wisdom:
Intelligence is not the same as wisdom. I know a lot of smart people that I believe do not have a lick of common sense and make very bad spiritual choices that they will or have already regretted.
Muhammad Ali was on an airplane ready for takeoff and the flight attendant asked him to put his seat belt on. He replied… Superman don’t need a seat belt. She moved on thinking that he would get it strapped in a moment. She returned and asked him again to fasten his seatbelt and again he replied… superman don’t need no seatbelt. Out of frustration, she answers back briskly…Superman don’t need an airplane. Get the seatbelt on or leave the plane.
Have you ever done anything dumb or stupid? Of course, we all have. God is asking us if we lack wisdom, we should ask of him when we face trials.
Today we will learn some wisdom about what to do in temptations. As we continue on in our study of the book of James, we move from tackling the issue of trial which are meant to mature our walk with the lord to temptations, which take us in the opposite direction we should be going as a follower of Christ.
VERSE 12 :
Illustration: In the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Kerri Strug faced the trial of her life. She had injured her ankle on the vault and was in great pain as she approached her final attempt to determine whether the U.S. gymnastics team would win the gold medal. She moved the crowd with an incredible performance in spite of the pain she was enduring, and the United States won gold. When asked how she did it, she said she focused on her coach, who kept telling her she could do it and who reminded her of what was at stake. When we are hurting during a trial, we need to put our focus on the right place.
The payoff for being a faithful clutch player is found in James 1:12: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” It takes a lot of pain and frustration to become a great clutch player. Yet over time your perseverance will bring great victory, a crown of life as a reward you can enjoy today and for eternity.
God’s tests are never a solicitation to evil, and James strongly corrects those who suggest such a thing. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone” (James 1:13).
The basic meaning of temptation (peirasmos) is simply to test or prove, and has no negative connotation. Whether it becomes a proof of righteousness or an inducement to evil depends on our response.
Temptations are human experiences. God often brings circumstances into our lives to test us. Like Job we usually do not at the time recognize them as tests, certainly not from God. But our response to them proves our faithfulness or unfaithfulness.
How we react to financial difficulty, school problems, health trouble, or business setbacks will always test our faith, our reliance on our heavenly Father. If we do not turn to Him, however, the same circumstances can make us bitter, resentful, and angry. Rather than thanking God for the test, as James advises, we may even accuse Him. An opportunity to cheat on our income tax or take unfair advantage in a business deal will either prove our righteousness or prove our weakness. The circumstance or the opportunity is only a test, neither good nor evil in itself. Whether it results in good or evil, spiritual growth or spiritual decline, depends entirely on our response.
Illustration to understand Temptation:
There are a lot of things I could compare when it comes to living in the world, sexual sin, the lust we have for objects that are shiny; but, I’ve decided that I’m not going to. I’ve decided to discuss two different liquids. One of them is water and the other is Coca Cola.
The two I’m going to compare in this way:
Let’s just pretend that water is the God’s kingdom stuff, the things that come from the Father and Let’s also pretend that Coke on the other hand is the world.
1) When I see a Coke bottle or Coke advertising I’m keen for a Coke. On a hot day I could be said to be craving a Coke. Water might be better for me, the truth is water is better for me, but there is water in Coke, Coke contains carbonated purified water, cane sugar, caramel, food acid , flavour, and caffeine. It says that about caffeine twice, the second time in bold letters.
On the other hand water contains two hydrogen atoms to every oxygen atom, a virtual trinity of atoms. All life is dependent on water..
Coke is all yummy caramel coloured- caffeine enhanced goodness. The caffeine helps fuel the craving. That this has all been in the fridge – ice cold, (open the can), all enhances the craving, (take a sip) – how is that craving going for you? Now remember I’m pretending water is God’s Kingdom stuff and that Coke is the world.
2) Now the lust of the eyes, Coke comes in a “contour bottle” with its hoop skirt appearance and the “dynamic ribbon device” note- the attractive red and white against the dark caramel of the liquid. With the trademark Coca-Cola, lettering. Nice! This is one of the most widely recognised designs in the world.
So along with the craving and the eye attractiveness thingy Coke is a must!
Water on the other hand, well its always close, we see it in creation, it sustains life, it cleans us, allows growth, it rains down on us. All life is dependent on water whether it knows it or not. You could deny all knowledge of water but it still sustains you.
Finally,The other thing about the world is that just when you believe that you have found satisfaction in Coca Cola, you discover you have acidity, ulcer and diabeties.
Note : When we are going through a testing temptation, we need to put our focus on the right place. The fruit we produce is the direct result of on what/who our focus is on …
Fruit for Yielding to Temptation (vs. 13-16)
In the Garden of Eden after Adam ate the forbidden fruit, he said he wasn’t to blame. It was the fault of the woman God had made. Sometimes we respond like that. When we do something wrong, we immediately look for someone to blame, even if it’s God.
One of the deadly consequences of not effectively dealing with the temptation to sin is that we begin to start the blame game. Here are some of the excuses:
We want to say “the devil made me do it.” But that is not so. Or sometimes we may question God. But James warns us in verse 13, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”
My Question To You: Are you Troubled by a sin that won’t go away?
Maybe you’re not overcoming it because you are blaming someone else. You might even be blaming God because He didn’t stop you from doing it. Nonsense! You’ll never conquer your sin until you’re willing to say, “It’s my fault!” Repent and don’t return to it.
VERSE 14: The Temptation Comes From Within, Not From Without.
James (1:14) says that each one “is carried away and enticed by his own lust.” The words he uses come from fishing. The fish sees the bait and it lures him toward it, thinking that he will get a meal. Instead, he gets hooked and carried away, where he becomes the meal. The temptation to sin is like that. We think that sin will satisfy us and get us something good that we’re missing. But instead, it hooks us and drags us to destruction.
Illustration: MONKEY FAST
A group of monkeys decided to go on a fast one day. “Before we begin, I think we should keep the food ready with which we’ll break the fast,” said the monkey chief. The monkeys nodded their heads in agreement. The youngsters were sent in search of food, they returned with huge bunches of delicious looking bananas.
“I think each one of us should keep our share of bananas with us ready before we begin our fast, so that we don’t spend time distributing them after we break our fast, you can imagine how hungry we will all be by then,” said the chief. The monkeys liked the idea and they collected their share of the bananas.
“Why don’t we peel the bananas and keep it ready to eat?” said the chief, “Yes, let’s do that,” said all the monkeys.
The chief now said, “All right, we shall peel the bananas, but under no condition should we eat them.” So the monkeys peeled their bananas and carefully kept them ready for eating in the evening. By this time, the monkeys tongue started watering and the plush, juicy fruit that was now revealed tempted them.
The chief hurriedly said, “let us all put the banana in our mouth but not swallow it, this way we can easily chew it immediately after we break the fast.” The monkeys happily put the bananas in their mouth! In no time, the bananas vanished and the fasting was called off!
Our world today is full of temptation, isn’t it? You don’t even have to go looking for it anymore. Temptations come to us. On the television, in the movies, and on the internet. Temptations of every kind and sorted kind are readily there. Whether it’s gluttony, greed, or drunkenness it’s all there. And it’s not only beer and babes, temptations common to men. There is fashion and footwear, cosmetics and spa, icecreams and chocolates. Temptation is gender neutral.
Of course, we wish to avoid temptation, or ought to. And so we try to eliminate these “opportunities.” And we should. Temptation may knock on our door anyway, but we don’t have to send it an invitation to show up nor welcome it in.
“If it’s not there, you won’t be tempted,” the saying goes. While there is a degree of truth to that, it isn’t the whole picture. is it ?
James reminds us in verse 14 that the temptation is really on the inside of us. “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” It’s not the stuff around us that tempts us, but our own sinful hearts. We know this is true. We can eliminate all the opportunities for temptation from our environment, from our home, but temptation will still come. We may keep no ice cream at home, so that it does not tempt us. Yet, in the midst of that barren refrigerator the temptation and desire for ice cream will arise, springing up within us. And soon we find ourselves at the icecream shop. The temptation came from within, not from without. We find ourselves standing there, enticed by our own desires. If this is true of ice cream, how much more true is it of the greater temptations we battle?
Don’t pitch your tents near sin or soon you will be living in it. I have heard stories of people who have been hooked by a variety of addictions. They almost always start by just an ‘innocent’ act that did not seem like much at the time. Gamblers who started by just putting a quarter in the slot machine. People struggling with pornography from just a glance at something they should not have been looking at.
Stay away from sin in your life!
ILLUSTRATION :Burmese Parable About a Banyan Tree Seed-
A Burmese Christian tells the following parable: A little banyan seed said to a palm tree one day, “I am weary of being tossed about by the wind; let me lodge in your branches.” “Remain as long as you like,” was the reply. Soon the tree forgot all about its tiny guest, but the seed did not remain idle. Immediately it began to work its roots under the bark and into the heart of the trunk itself. Finally the tree cried out, “What are you doing?” “I’m only the little seed you allowed to rest among your boughs,” came the reply. “Get out!” exclaimed the palm. “You’ve become too large and strong!” “I cannot leave you now,” said the banyan. “We have grown together, and I would kill you if I tore myself away.” The tree tried desperately to shake itself loose, but to no avail. Eventually its graceful leaves turned brown, and its trunk wasted away; but the banyan continued to thrive until its host could not longer be found.
ILLUSTRATION: The poisonous snakebite of sin
Recently, the news has carried stories about how that snakes formerly kept as pets have been released and found new habitat. The Everglades is overrun with such snakes. In an effort to prevent the problem from escalating, the authorities are removing snakes from those who are not licensed to have them.
As ludicrous as this seems, there are people who keep rattlesnakes as pets. I know people who keep snakes. I just don’t get it at all (I jump when I watch snakes on TV), but to keep a venomous snake with venom glands is just asking for trouble. One man kept a 6 foot rattlesnake in a cage for a pet. He released it in his living room one day just to tease his wife. She ran screaming from the room, and the man quickly took a stick and placed it behind the reptile’s head, holding it firmly to the floor so he could recapture the snake. The irritated snake writhed and the man pushed the stick down more firmly to maintain control. Suddenly the stick snapped, and the rattler struck the man on the hand. Medical treatment saved his life, but his finger had to be amputated.
I think we can all agree that man was an idiot who got what he justly deserved. Who would be so foolish to toy with something so deadly? How many of us are toying with sin in the same fashion thinking we have control and are safe from the poisonous strike?
According to the news, scientists came across an unusual sight in the Florida Everglades. A python that had swallowed an alligator was actually killed as the alligator struggled to escape the python’s stomach. No doubt when the python ate the alligator, he thought he was fulfilling some kind of need in his life. He was not wise enough to understand the consequences.
We human beings are even worse. We try to fulfill our need in destructive ways, even after we have seen evidence that it is destructive. In the end the sin we have embraced consumes us.
VERSE 16-18: First Fruits of God’s Gift (vs. 17-18)
Don’t be fooled by the bait of sin, James is telling us, but realizes the hook is buried in it, waiting to pierce you and pull you in.
James draws a contrast with the preceding verses about temptation and what it can lead to. His point is that Satan does not give good gifts. Only God gives good gifts. Remember that James began by saying that God did not cause temptation to come to us. God is not the source of our temptation. Temptation is not a good thing. It is a bad thing. And God does not give bad things to us.
Satan would like for temptation to look like a good thing. Don’t be fooled. Reject that lie outright. Every good gift comes from above, from our Father. In Him there is “no variation or shadow of turning,” that is, we judge for sure between His gifts, which are pure and good and without a doubt from Him, and Satan’s temptations, which offer fleeting pleasure and fulfillment but at a terrible price.
God gives good gifts. Not only does God give good gifts, but all good gifts that are given are from God. This means that you cannot get a gift that is a good gift without it being from God. God continues to give good gifts. He gives every day. He is the giving God. God does not change. There is no variation in God. He does not change. He never gets up on the wrong side of the bed. He is never in a bad mood. He gave in the past and He continues to give in the present and, because He is unchanging, you can be assured that He will always be the giving God.
Overcoming Temptation By Focussing On Jesus:
1 Corinthians 10:13 Says, But with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it. The phrase the way is formed by the definite article and a singular noun. In other words, there is only one way. The way of escape from every temptation, no matter what it is, is the same: it is through. Whether we have a test by God to prove our righteousness or a test by Satan to induce to sin, there is only one way we can pass the test. We escape temptation not by getting out of it but by passing through it. God does not take us out; He sees us through by making us able to endure it.
ILLUSTRATION: A young man who was dating a woman many of his friends thought was not worthy of him. The friends were relieved when he went into the army and she began dating other men. While in the service, the young man met a wonderful Christian lady, fell in love and married her. Upon his discharge, they returned to his hometown.
One evening the first woman came by her old boyfriend’s house to see him and meet his wife. Finding the wife was not present, she made no attempt to hide her affection and interest in resuming a romance.
As the young man, he realized that he could have a sexual relationship if he wished, and there was a physical attraction. But he began to tell the woman about his wonderful wife; he showed her pictures, praising his wife and acting as if he did not recognize the woman’s advances.
As she prepared to leave, the old girlfriend said, “Well, she must be quite a girl if she can keep you from reaching!” That young man said he was never more joyful in his life, and his love for his wife had never been greater. Some would think he had given up the opportunity for pleasure, but there was not any sense of sacrifice in his mind. The value he put on his wife and on their marriage made cheating seem out of the question.
When we are tempted to sin, we can simply think of Jesus, His love for us and the sacrifice He made for us, and yielding to temptation will seem out of the question.
ILLUSTRATION: Hunting Monkeys
In early 2001 some towns in India were stricken by a plague of monkeys. The monkeys were so numerous they would invade homes, bite people, and make off with food supplies. It was agreed the monkey’s would have to be caught and relocated. The people in these towns resorted to a traditional method for catching them. They gathered their old milk bottles, tied them to the ground, and then placed something sweet such as a lolly inside the bottle. Then when a monkey comes along and sees the sweet he places his hand inside the bottle, but with the sweet enclosed in his palm his fist is too big to get back out the bottle. Our monkey will pull and push in an effort to get that sweet out, but he will not let it go, not even as his captors approach. And so the monkey is caught, literally with his hand in the lolly jar!
Application: Materialism. Although we know Jesus’ warning that materialism is destructive to our souls (and our world!) we find it very difficult to let go of possessions and the need to consume and possess them.
Application: Bitterness, forgiveness: unless we let go of our hurts and bitterness we will become trapped by the past, wanting to move forward yet unable to. Yet this is difficult, as we find it perversely attractive to hold onto our pain and bitterness.
Application: Sin, Temptation: often in life we are like the monkey, presented with an attractive offer, yet knowing that unless we let go of it, it will destroy us.
(James 4:7 KJV) Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.